A week ago we received a note from a reader questioning the use of early check-in fees at campgrounds. The RVer said he had been charged $25 for checking in two hours early to his reserved site. “In my eight years of RVing, this has never happened to us,” they wrote.
While “flipping” a campsite involves much less work than preparing a hotel room for the next guest, there are a few tasks to attend to each day between arrivals and departures. Grass gets mowed and watered, fire pits are cleaned, connections are checked, and trash cans are emptied. Along with the above tasks, campground staff also gets pulled away to clean pools and prepare cabins and other accommodations.
Add in the sudden infusion of millions more campers, many wanting to arrive “a few hours early,” and you have the beginnings of a severe bottleneck in campers coming and going.
I decided to ask a few campground owners about early check-in fees, along with how and why they are used. I’m not going to list the names of the campgrounds I contacted. Sometimes you get much more honest responses when you guarantee anonymity. But rest assured, the responses are from real owners and managers.
Here’s what I was told:
“We strictly enforce the ‘no check-in early’ policy on the phone, via email inquiries, and upon arrival. If a guest arrives early, we explain that our maintenance times are between 11-1 for RV and tent sites and 11-2 for all cabins. If their site is ready, we will let the guest in for a $20 early check-in fee. We see about 2-3 of those a week. It may look like there are plenty of sites available in the morning, but those are all likely reserved.”
“I charge $25 for early check-ins. If we’ve got a ton of arrivals, I’ll waive the early check-in fee in order to clear the registration area and keep traffic moving.”
“Early check-ins have always been bad, but this year they are much worse. I had one recently show up for a tent site at 7:58 a.m. when check-in is 1 p.m. I used to charge $10, but that isn’t nearly enough to discourage the practice. It seems, among owners, that the charge is all over the board. Some charge much more than $10, and some just let them come on in and that ruins having a policy for the rest of us.”
“Some campers start rolling in at 10 a.m., well before the current campers are even gone. I don’t charge for early arrivals because I don’t want my parking lot backed up for hours with those who won’t pay and just hang around. Sometimes on a Friday, we can have 160 check-ins to process, and I can’t schedule enough staff early to handle those earlier check-in hours.”
“We don’t currently charge anything for early arrivals. If there is a site available, we let them in early. If there isn’t a site, they have to wait.”
What do you think? Have you encountered an early check-in fee on any of your campground stays? If so, please tell us about it in the comments below. Thanks!